Party Guru Andrew W.K. on Government, God and Pee-wee Herman
Party-rocker and columnist Andrew W.K. brings his Power of Partying speaking tour to Denver.
Andrew W.K. wants you to ask yourself: What would a wizard do?
“Try to imagine that you’re the strongest, most noble, most thoughtful, most compassionate, intelligent person in the world,” he says, “and pretend to be that. Speak from that place. It’s more than self-awareness; it’s the ability to access this super-intelligence.”
The prolific entertainer, who popularized the ethos of “Party Hard,” used to write a popular advice column for the Village Voice, and this is his advice for those who want to give advice. W.K. says it works for giving yourself advice, too: “I have my first thought, usually a pretty shallow, petty thought. Then I can say, what if I were a really great person — what would I think? Imagine you’re a wizard, basically.”
The rocker is an offbeat wizard himself: In the past couple of weeks, W.K. released his first collaboration on an electronic-music record (“Party ’Til We Die”), started a weekly column at Vice, launched an app, and is in the midst of the “Power of Partying” — his first fifty-state speaking tour. For W.K., the form itself is merely a means to an end.
“Ultimately, it doesn’t matter so much to me if it’s as a musician or as a writer. I would most like to be seen as a symbol of that feeling,” he says. “Someone who you can turn to, as you would turn to a certain song.”
But to what feeling is he referring? Well, that gets more difficult to put into words. Even the term “party” is essentially meaningless — a stand-in for essential meaning.
“I never really defined [‘party’] to begin with,” he says. “It’s a feeling that I got from music, a feeling that I got from the best moments of my life, the most intense moments, and it’s essentially impossible to sum those feelings up. I chose the word for its clarity and its reach in that it could be understood by a three-year-old or a 33-year-old or a 93-year-old.”
Though W.K. can access the transcendent “physical, emotional, mental, entire human sensation” readily though loud music, his current lecture tour focuses on verbal communication. The program consists of W.K. “speaking extemporaneously,” then a Q&A, and finally, he will sit down, one on one, with anyone in the audience who wants to talk. The event can last five hours, and he describes the atmosphere as a “pep rally” for fellow seekers.
“All my work is not personal — I’ve been trying to get away from that into the true self underneath all the tastes and things we think make up a self,” he says. “Meeting someone who likes what I’ve made is like discovering a brother or sister. They’re cheering this feeling on, supporting this whole effort that we’re in together. What is this feeling of being alive? To be able to bond with people like this, it’s a privilege.”
His open-mindedness extends to contemporary concerns, such as the stress of social media. “It seemed natural from the very beginning,” W.K. says. “Here’s another way to party with people all over the world. It really counts. Once, Pee-wee Herman tweeted a photo of this guitar I made that’s shaped like a slice of pizza, and it meant a lot to me. People downplay it, but there’s power there, people reaching toward each other and toward truth. Any mechanism, any resource that we can use to further that reach, is part of the human destiny.”
In terms of furthering human destiny, W.K. reminds us that “government politics are not life,” and that “life is delicate and peculiarly small and specific, not a sweeping monolithic atmosphere,” and that a politician’s role is to “engage with the formal structures that allow us to experience those things for ourselves.”
W.K. also views formal religions as “attempts to create structures to interact with the infinite.” “Even the concept of god,” he continues, “is a mechanism to bring the unknown into a knowable framework. But it’s all still caught up in the paradox.”
To listen as W.K. attempts to describe the indescribable and reach toward the unreachable, it becomes difficult to tell where profundity blurs into bong theory. Then there’s the view that with the seminars, the vague allusions to higher consciousness and the all-white outfit, W.K. could transform into a multimedia guru with more cultish self-help implications. Yet when W.K. seems to so genuinely be grappling with his own “limitations” and huge existential questions, it’s hard to be cynical.
8 p.m. Tuesday, October 11, Gothic Theatre, 3263 South Broadway, Englewood, 303-788-0984, $20-$29.75.
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